For many, getting in the habit of exercising begins with a seemingly simple yet overwhelmingly intimidating step through the doors of a gym. Baylor students, faculty and staff looking to improve their fitness are lucky enough to have the McLane Student Life Center conveniently located right on campus. Despite the building’s close proximity and comprehensive amenities, some still find the gym intimidating. While Baylor as an institution could take measures to make the SLC more welcoming, we each have a role to play in making the gym a more inviting place for all.
Dr. Kim Scott, director of campus recreation at Baylor, said the SLC’s tagline when it opened almost 20 years ago was “a place for all students.” The diversity of amenities offered at the SLC speak to this vision, and new initiatives further implement this message to students. For example, a new “Women’s Only Swim” time launched this weekend and will take place again April 27 and May 4 from 9 to 10 a.m. The program was marked as an hour for Baylor women to swim: “While all women are welcome to use the swimming pool during regular hours, we understand that some women find it difficult to enjoy the swimming pool at regular times due to a variety of reasons,” according to an email sent to Baylor students. Furthermore, the SLC offers swim lessons for any students who may want to use the pool for fitness but lack the skills to participate in that exercise.
More often, students express a discomfort with the fitness center, located on the bottom floor of the SLC. This room has a person at the entrance, checking to make sure students have towels and sleeves before they are allowed to work out. This system seeks to ensure the health of all students, but can add to the misunderstanding of the fitness center as a space for those who know the procedures and cultural norms of frequenting the gym. Because of this, the SLC should offer sleeved T-shirts and towels for students to check out similar to other gym equipment like basketballs.
Large, looming equipment also alienates those new to exercising, as they often lack guides with enough details for a novice to understand. Furthermore, those who work out daily, with their greased up muscles, loud grunts and watery protein shakes, can also intimidate those just getting into fitness and add to the exclusivity of the space.
Nevertheless, Campus Recreation has safeguards in place that every newbie should know. Scott explained that “fitness center staff are trained to instruct patrons on how to use the equipment.” In addition, if the fitness center in the SLC is too crowded to feel welcoming, the weight area in Russell Gym is open from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There are also a few cardio machines located on the second floor of the SLC for those who want to bike or elliptical in a quieter setting.
Most recently, Baylor is building a Fitness Court just outside the SLC “where students can use their body weight in seven circuits to strengthen their core, upper body and lower body,” according to Scott. The Fitness Court is set to open the last week of classes. For students looking to do non-weighted exercises like pilates and yoga, Scott said Campus Recreation has also looked into converting small spaces in residence halls. This has become necessary since the stretching space on the third floor of the SLC was converted into the F45 studio. Students can also use racquetball courts for this yoga and pilates, but when more space becomes available, there should also be a space for this purpose in a more comfortable setting, complete with mats and some basic pilates/yoga equipment for students who don’t want to pay for a course. This is especially important since pilates and yoga are good introductory steps for those new to exercising since they don’t require much prior knowledge. Perhaps a room to meet this need could be located within Russell Gym since the SLC doesn’t currently have the space.
Despite Campus Recreation initiatives to make the SLC a more welcoming and less intimidating space, it’s ultimately up to individuals to make the gym accessible. If you see someone struggling with a machine that you know how to use, offer some advice. Shoot someone a kind smile across the room instead of an intimidating grimace. And please, keep the grunting to a minimum.